Garden and allotment jobs to dig into now…February

Think there’s nothing to do at the plot this month? Think again! I take a pick-axe to the frozen water butt and get stuck into a heavenly new horticultural year…

Plant garlic

Softneck garlic such as Solent Wight can be planted from January to March. Choose the sunniest spot possible, breaking the bulb into cloves just before planting and spacing 10-15cm apart. Keep watering from March onwards until about 1-2 weeks before harvest.

Force rhubarb

It’s not too late to get your hands on some perfectly pink rhubarb sticks with this reliable forcing method below…

Sow tomatoes

Yeeeeesss, it’s that time of year again I hear you cry! Tomatoes are among the first seeds we can sow, alongside things like peppers and chillies, because they both require a long growing season. I think they’re also one of the most pleasurable plants to grow for food because they’re so simple to sow and grow. Find my guide to growing here 

Sow roots indoors

February is the traditional time to sow carrots and parsnips but with conditions often uninviting, most seeds would prefer huddling in the warmth of the packet than submerged in damp, cold mud! Get a head start by sowing in containers indoors instead. They appreciate the stone and weed-free soil and you can give each pot individual protection and attention. Pot-grown carrots are also less prone to carrot fly. Choose deep pots and troughs, at least 12in deep for carrots (long toms used for growing tomatoes are perfect). Choose short, ball types or Nantes varieties of carrot, and shorter versions of parsnip (such as Avonresister) and place the seeds 1/2 inc deep and about 1inch apart. Keep well watered in dry conditions, and the carrots should be ready to harvest after around 10 weeks and the parsnips after 12 to 16 weeks.

Make a light box

Give your baby plants the light they need by making a quick and easy lightbox. Recipe below…

Prune fruit

Finish pruning apples and pears this month, taking out dead, diseased or crossing branches, and prune established blueberries, gooseberries and currants. Autumn raspberries can also be cut down to the ground now and given a good mulch so the fruit can develop on new canes in the summer.

Finally, give up the glut guilt…

Swiss Chard Gratin. Chop 8 mushrooms and 1 small onion and sauté in butter over a medium heat. Wash a large handful of chard leaves and cook in boiling water for a few minutes, refresh under cold water, and then drain. Add 1 clove crushed garlic to the mushrooms, then the chard and 2tbsp crème fraîche, and stir. Scoop into a shallow baking dish, and scatter a handful of grated cheese on top, and bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

Horseradish Dip. Peel and grate 1/2oz (15g) horseradish and soak in a little hot water. Drain and pop in a bowl with 1tbsp white wine vinegar, 1/2tsp mustard, 1/2tsp caster sugar and 150ml (5fl oz) double cream. Season to taste and pour it into a jar to keep in the fridge. In a blender, blitz 3tbsp sunflower seeds, 3tbsp olive oil, a glug of water, the juice of 1 lemon, 2tsp of your horseradish sauce, 1tsp honey and season to taste. Process until smooth and serve with tortilla crisps.

Rhubarb Syllabub. Wash and cut five-sticks rhubarb into chunks and pop in a saucepan with 1 thumb-sized chunk fresh, finely chopped ginger, 75g (2oz) caster sugar and 100ml (3floz) water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft, then cool. In a jug, whisk 100g (3oz) mascarpone with 300ml (10fl oz) natural yoghurt and 50g (1oz) icing sugar until it forms soft peaks (it takes a little while!) Pop the rhubarb into the bottom of four tall glasses and top with the creamy mix.

Want to know what to do next month? Read this!

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